Newly released documents show that the mayor was trying to help Ford family business client Apollo Health and Beauty Care acquire new property.
It seems Mayor Rob Ford has been working even harder than originally thought to help advance the interests of a valuable family business client. Documents newly released to the Globe and Mail under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that Ford requested City staff explore the possibility of using their power of expropriation to acquire 7,000 square feet of privately owned land for Apollo Health and Beauty Care, a valuable Deco Labels and Tags customer, to use as a 24-space parking lot.
Earlier this year, the Globe and Mail reported that Ford and his brother Councillor Doug Ford (Ward 2, Etobicoke North) helped Apollo lobby city manager Joe Pennachetti for a generous property tax break (their efforts were unsuccessful). The Fords failed to disclose that their family firm had a business relationship with Apollo that was estimated to have brought in about $1 million per year for Deco.
Today, the Globe is reporting that in June 2011 Apollo co-owner Richard Wachsberg, not wanting to use a private laneway at the soap company’s factory in north Toronto for parking (he feared it would impede traffic at the 400,000-square-foot facility), emailed the Brothers Ford asking for a solution. “We must fix this,” Wachsberg wrote. “I cannot occupy the space if I cannot access or egress the space.” The idea was to acquire land from Suncor, the energy company that owns a tank farm next door.
Three days later, the mayor met with Wachsberg, as well as Neil Cresswell, the head of planning for the area, and Tim Cook, the man in charge of City expropriations, at the factory site. In an email sent just hours before that meeting, Cook told Cresswell he had already informed the mayor and Wachsberg that the City can only expropriate land for public use—not for private interests. But three days after the June 17 meeting, Wachsberg emailed Ford with a map outlining the patch of Suncor property Apollo hoped to acquire: “The attached plan is what we are pursuing in exact consideration of our discussions on Friday. We ask your great courtesy to obtain the 7,195 sq ft of land at the NE corner of the Suncor lands for our use as lease.”
As the Globe reports, “The records do not show what Mayor Ford or his staff did with this request”—although Wachsberg claimed to have no recollection or knowledge of ever making it.
Ford’s relationship with Apollo is the subject of an investigation by integrity commissioner Janet Leiper. The result of the investigation will not be known until after the October 27 municipal election. The mayor has defended himself against suggestions that he has given any businesses special treatment: “Are you accusing me of doing something?” he asked reporters in July. “What’s wrong with helping people? Nothing wrong. I help out everybody. And I’ve never taken one dime of taxpayers’ money.”